By Maharshi Goswami
That a film called Riders of the Mist was being made was announced when the song Pitol Soku by Joi Barua and his band was released by John Abraham on the World Music Day 2013. That was also when lot of people in Assam itself, and the rest of India, got to know about a beautiful tradition that has been taking shape in the state – of bareback pony racing. The song is a call to the riders and the horses to follow a path of light and to go beyond the inhibitory walls.
With the spark of bringing back memories of a place called ‘home’, Riders of the Mist is a documentary that talks about the little known bareback pony racing tradition in the state of Assam. Presented by Mumbai Based Kahini Media and directed by Roopa Barua, the film not only attempts to take this unique tradition to a larger audience but celebrate the people and animals associated with it.
The century old custom has brought about some very beautiful relationships between the jockeys and their ponies. The ponies are free-grazing and live in the grassland river islands of the Brahmaputra Valley. The jockeys who are villagers of the Mishing Tribe have inherited the bareback racing tradition from their forefathers. The 65 minute film captures one such connection between a jockey and his pony. As the film unfolds, it shows the intricate level of bonding shared between the jockeys and the ponies and follows this till the end of the race. For the jockeys, they feel a sense of festivity dawning upon them as they begin by bringing their ponies and taming them for the much anticipated Governor’s Cup Annual Race. Heartwarming.
At a recent screening, director Roopa Barua, who is also the writer, spoke about her connection with the race – going back to her childhood when she used to go as a spectator to the race. After a decade of staying abroad, she came back to go further into the lives of the jockeys who are an integral part of the race.
The film has been beautifully shot by Vikram Srivastava, complementing Barua’s vision. Among other credits include editing by Hemanti Sarkar known for her work in films like Bollywood blockbusters Peepli Live, English Vinglish etc. Clearly the director got her team right.
Riders of the Mist is more than just an opportunity to experience the lives of Mishing Jockeys of Jorhat who participate every year in the annual governor’s cup race held in the Jorhat’s Khelmati Gymkhana Club. It is a story needed to be told… and that has been done pretty well.
Pitol Soku – Music Video
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